How Will Fossil-Fuel Addiction Affect Our Future?

Scientific projections and analyses can help us understand what the future might hold if we refuse to break our addiction to fossil fuels.

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When it comes to Big Oil, the latest news clips say it all—soaring gas prices topping $4 a gallon; a record-high $33.5 billion, or $368 million per day, in 2012 first-quarter profits for BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell; the industry sitting on more than $58 billion in cash reserves as of the end of 2011 but still receiving $2 billion in government subsidies; and a continued practice of bankrolling the campaigns of conservative lawmakers who then demand more drilling and less federal regulation and oversight.

These almost-daily news stories, however, are the tip of a much larger iceberg. Today the American Petroleum Institute (API) launches their long-term vision for the future, which to no surprise centers on “unleashing the full benefit of developing U.S. oil and natural gas resources.”

Every day, Americans face decisions that will have a monumental impact on how we will generate and use energy in the future. As we write these words, policymakers in Washington, D.C., and across the country are debating whether to throw open the Arctic and our public lands to gas and oil drilling, whether to build a massive pipeline infrastructure that will bisect the entire country and import “tar sands” from Canada, and whether to weaken federal and state environmental protections against fossil fuel pollutants in the name of “economic growth.” These decisions will not only determine our short-term fuel choices, but they will also steer the course of our collective economic, political, and environmental futures. Which begs a crucial question for all Americans to consider: What kind of country will we be in in 2030 if we let Big Oil and their interests in Congress have their way?

Jorge Madrid, Kate Gordon, and Tina Ramos look at some sobering scientific projections and analyses that can help us understand what the future might hold if we refuse to break our addiction to fossil fuels.

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